Benjamin Franklin Museum
Today I met a friend in London and we went to the little heard of Benjamin Franklin Museum on Craven Street near Charing Cross, London. This museum is one of those places that you would probably walk straight past if you didn’t know it was there.
Benjamin Franklin lived here from 1757 to 1775.
You need to ring the bell to be let in for a timed “theatrical” tour
There is a small courtyard at the back
You have to ring a bell before someone answers to let you in, so this gives you a clue to its low-profile. You have to visit on a timed tour, which consists of an “audio-visual” presentation and an acted performance by a woman pretending to be the daughter of the lady of the house. We were on a tour consisting of six people, so I don’t know how they generate enough money to run the place.
The house has few artefacts but there is a display in the basement of some of the objects they uncovered while renovating the house, including skeletons that are probably left over from the anatomy school run by a member of Franklin’s household
Franklin claimed to use this staircase for his daily exercise
The house is historically significant in that it is the only remaining former home of Benjamin Franklin. The acting is excellent, but I think I would have preferred to be left to wander the rooms and stare out of the windows on my own. Instead you follow the actress dressed in period costume into various rooms, where voices speak out from hidden speakers and images appear on the walls, which dramatize Benjamin Franklin’s time there. Apparently his wife died while he was resident in this property and he didn’t know until his son wrote to him. But perhaps the fact that she hadn’t written to him for about 9 months would have been a clue and that in her last letter she wrote it would be her last as she was too frail. This dampened my enthusiasm for the man somewhat as he did seem to put his career before family, which was a shame (he spent 18 years away from them). There was also a bit about him wanting to kiss all the ladies…
The rooms are bare apart from a few theatrical props
The rooms are bare with the shutters closed. The darkness means that you can hardly see and I was itching to open the shutters and peep outside or even just to let some light in. When the performance ends you are swiftly escorted to the door with “thanks for visiting” ringing in your ears.
This cooking range can be seen in the ladies toilet
I would have liked to have lingered a bit longer and had the opportunity to ask questions, as Benjamin Franklin was a very interesting person. As well as being a politician he conducted experiments with electricity and invented the glass armonica (never found out what this actually was) among other things. He was also a publisher. Perhaps a few more artifacts would have served the museum well, but maybe that will happen in the future. Ho hum on to the next venue…